The Truths Behind Cervical Spondylosis
By Neurosurgery Singapore
Cervical spondylosis is also called cervical osteoarthritis. It is a condition involving changes to the bones, discs, and joints of the neck. These changes are caused by the normal wear-and-tear of aging. With age, the discs of the cervical spine gradually break down, lose fluid, and become stiffer. Cervical spondylosis usually occurs in middle-aged and elderly people.
As a result of the degeneration of discs and other cartilage, spurs or abnormal growths called osteophytes may form on the bones in the neck. These abnormal growths can cause narrowing of the interior of the spinal column or in the openings where spinal nerves exit, a related condition called cervical spinal stenosis.
The cartilage that lines the vertebrae on each side of the disc, where they touch, can wear away. Once this protective cartilage is gone, spurs may develop on your vertebrae where they rub together. Nerves attached to your spinal cord may have less room to pass between the vertebrae on their way out of the spine.
What are some symptoms related to cervical spondylosis?
For most people, cervical spondylosis causes no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they typically include pain and stiffness in the neck.
Sometimes, cervical spondylosis results in a narrowing of the space needed by the spinal cord and the nerve roots that pass through the spine to the rest of your body. If the spinal cord or nerve roots become pinched, you might experience:
- Tingling, numbness and weakness in your arms, hands, legs or feet
- Lack of coordination and difficulty walking
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
“Cervical spondylosis usually doesn’t lead to disability. But sometimes these changes in the spine can cause the spinal cord or nerve roots attached to it to become compressed. This can cause your legs or hands to feel weak or clumsy.”
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What types of treatments?
The treatment of cervical spondylosis depends entirely on the cause of the problem. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you understand the cause of your symptoms before embarking on a treatment program. If you are unsure of your diagnosis, or the severity of your condition, you should seek medical advice before beginning any treatment. These may include:
Medicines. Anti-inflammatory medicines and muscle relaxants may help.
Physical therapy. Our physical therapist can teach you stretching and strengthening exercises that may ease symptoms.
Ice or heat. Cool your neck with an ice pack or heat it with a warming pad as directed by us or physical therapist.
Collar. Wearing a soft collar around your neck for short periods may help your symptoms. It can cause your neck to weaken, however, if you wear it too long.
Injections. Our Specialist can inject medicine and pain-relieving drugs into the painful joint in your neck or into the space next to your spinal cord.
Surgery. In most cases, surgery is not needed. But our surgeons can do different procedures to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or the nerves leaving your spine, if necessary. Our surgeon can remove bone from around the opening that allows the nerve to exit the spine or bone from other parts of the vertebrae. He may also fuse bones in the spine after 1 of these procedures.
Things you can do to ease your pain
Such options include:
- Regular exercise: This can help speed up the recovery time from bouts of pain.
- A heated pad or cold pack: This can provide pain relief when the neck muscles become sore.
- A soft neck brace: These can temporarily relieve pain if a person wears them for short periods. However, long-term use can result in weaker neck muscles.
These remedies may only work for less severe cases. People with severe neck pain should visit our Specialist.